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Dehko, o deewano, yeah kaamnakaro,
Ram kanaambadnaamna karo…

The plaintive song from the past runs through my head as one reads the news reports of the competitive slogan mongering that rang through the hallowed portals.of.the Parliament ad the fresh lot of MPs were sworn in. It doesn’t augur well for the monsoon session, that MPs are heckled by their colleagues as they take oath of office.

So while some chorused “Jai Shri Ram” others countered with “Jai Maa Kali”. And yet others said Allah hu Akbar and other related chants invoking their own deity.

Some also said Jai Hind and Jai Samvidhan along with this.

As a young girl I used to bear my cousin imitating worker gangs engaging in heavy lifting of say electricity poles… they used to hold on to long ropes and the supervisor would say “Ram Ram bolo” and the gang, in unison, would chant Aisa! And pull the rope together for the space of the breath. This would go on till the pole rose slowly to.the chant and the reply, Aisa! and reached a perpendicular position. This is my first memory of the term.

When I moved to the north some decades ago to study and later work, for the first time I heard the words “Ram Ram” as a greeting exchanged between common people, usually the working classes. It evoked a peaceful fellow feeling. Ram was this benign presence among the people, at the tip of people’s tongues.

One also heard this name chanted in funeral processions, “ Ram naam Satya hai” . The sober chant also reassured us that God was present at times of grief and bereavement, an assertion of faith and comfort.

But in recent years, somehow, this benign, peacable and sober personality of Ram seems.to have undergone a change.

Jai Shri Ram has become a rallying cry, a slogan used by political parties of a saffron shade. The cry often accompanies public assertions which tends to intimidate the onlooker and is often accompanied by some form of coercive actions, to put it mildly.

One is grieved to see how Tarek was beaten for seven hours, forced to chant Jai Shri Ram, and then cast, despite his severe injuries, into a police cell for four days only to die of his wounds. Is this what the ruler of Ayodhya would have done? It’s ironical when one notes that the name Ayodhya means “ a place of no war”, a place of peace!

One longs to hear the more peaceful Ram Ram as a greeting.

Cynthia Stephen is a social activist


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